Does it seem like there are never enough hours in your day? Are you tired of being the first one at the office and the last to leave? A common mistake that managers make is to believe that they are too busy to take the time to teach others. That old saying about teaching a man to fish applies in the workplace as well. Your most important task as a leader is to teach your staff how to think and ask the right questions. Learning to delegate makes you a better leader, empowers your staff and frees up your time. In an industry like textile rental services, the workload often seems endless. Delegation can be your biggest weapon in the endless fight of daily processes, deliveries and management. To improve your delegation skills, focus on analyzing your actions, putting the right organizational structure into place and learning to let go.
Analyze Your Actions
The first step in becoming a better delegator is to take a look at why you avoid passing on tasks to other team members. You may not realize that you’re unnecessarily hoarding work. A typical sign of insufficient delegation is that you are working long hours and feel indispensable while your staff isn’t terribly energized and keeps regular hours. Have you stopped to notice that you feel like you are running out of time while your team is running out of work? You may also feel that your team doesn’t take ownership over projects and that you’re the only one who cares.
Managers who have perfectionist tendencies may feel it’s easier to do everything themselves, that their work is better than others or that delegation may detract from their own importance. It’s important to realize that the best leaders take the time to teach others how to be more effective and efficient at their jobs. Being able to train and develop staff can help turn a manager into a leader. Push yourself to be open-minded to new ideas and different ways to operate. As a leader, your job should be to work on the business – not in the business. The better your staff is equipped to handle the execution of various tasks, the better you will be able to manage your leadership role. Ask yourself – “What is it that ONLY I can do?” Prioritize your responsibilities and look to see who on your team has the skills to fulfill some of those obligations or who can be taught how to do them. Accepting that you can’t do everything yourself is a critical first step to delegating.
Put Together a Strong Organizational Structure
There are three steps to put together a strong organizational structure that will allow you to delegate properly.
- Step 1: Look at your present organizational structure and review not only where your current employees are on the chart but also where they have potential to go. Then, look for the gaps or where there is an uneven workload to determine what roles need to be hired. It’s more than just hiring to delegate your current tasks. It’s having a vision of how to continually grow and improve your staff. Don’t just look for people who only fulfill one specific role and who can never grow. Look for people who have the capability to assume greater levels of responsibility as time goes on. Make sure that your team has the skill set to take on your overflow work and teach them to delegate tasks as far down the hierarchy as possible without losing the necessary quality. This not only frees up your time but it also helps all of your staff grow.
- Step 2: Take the time to create staff development plans. Sure, it is one more thing on your “to-do list” but part of that process is deciding which projects and tasks you will pass on to specific employees. Help them set stretch goals and learn the skills they need to get there. This will make them stronger, more valuable employees while taking work off your plate. Make sure those performance goals are written down and discuss your expectations of their growth. As your staff continues to evolve, ensure that you have given your employees not only the expectation of their new responsibilities but also the authority to execute their new tasks. Delegating responsibility without also delegating authority is a sure way to fail and create frustration for your employees.
- Step 3: Give your direct reports permission to call you out when you haven’t delegated something you could. Request and expect input from your employees. This not only builds stronger relationships with your staff but it also helps you recognize potential new delegation opportunities. You can learn what type of projects will help your employees develop by maintaining an ongoing dialog that is focused on helping their professional growth.
Learn to Let Go
Delegation isn’t just an action – it’s a mindset. It requires a shift in thinking that leaves many managers uncomfortable. It is important to overcome those fears and force yourself to begin delegating. If you’re nervous, give out a task that doesn’t have enormous consequences for failure. This allows you to get a on the strengths, weaknesses and readiness of your employees. Gradually give them more and more responsibility. Learn to replace your fear with trust.
The first time you delegate a large project, expect to feel awkward. Set up a schedule that allows you to see the progress of the project but not so often that you will get in the way. Your job is to observe and support your direct reports. Understand that not everyone will make the same choice you would make but that doesn’t mean their way is incorrect.
Help your employees develop their critical thinking skills so they become better at managing their own situations. Give your employees space. If you want your staff to learn, you have to permit them to make mistakes and figure out how to correct them. It’s alright if they stumble – just be close by to catch them before they fall. Micromanaging defeats the whole purpose of delegation and adds things to your “to-do list.
Becoming a better delegator helps you, your staff and your organization, yet it remains one of the most underutilized management skills. Take time to work on your delegation skills and everyone will see the benefits, especially when you finally have the time to focus on your long-term business strategies.
Troy Lovins, CEO, Performance Matters.